Sauna Youth - Distractions

Sauna Youth – Distractions

This experimental London garage punk band emit a studious vibe – Dreamlands’ album cover is simply a photo of their instruments sat player-less in front of a typical looking shared house. If there were to be a new version of The Young Ones on our tellies, I’d like to think it would sound like this. Band members aren’t exclusive to this project; creating a family tree would really be quite a task, partly because they appear to use more than one name, as individuals. Cold Pumas and Primitive Parts guitarists, Tense Men’s drummer, Feature’s vocalist… if they all swap instruments, they form another band called Monotony. Labels and promoters Upset The Rhythm, Gringo Records and Faux Discx are developing quite a collective, here, offering artistic freedom in an almost hippie communal fashion.

Breaking this album down track-by-track seems somewhat appropriate, mostly thanks to the concept of my personal favourite tune ‘The Bridge’:

1: End Loop. 18 seconds of what sounds like a needle on the record, with an added monotonous electronic ‘End Of Transmission’ note played over the top. It’s kind of hypnotic. They have my full attention.

2: Transmitters. One of the longest tracks, at just over 3 minutes. *Tom Tom Tom Snare*, like from the bridge of The Jam’s ‘Going Underground’, kicks things off; soon joined by a repeated, rapid, single bass note and a high distorted crisp guitar chord. The singable geek culture lyrics give a nod to Jean-Luc Picard – “make it so”.

3. New Fear. The tempo is slower, now, but the beat packs more of a punch. Duel vocals from drummer Richard “Boon” Phoenix and Jen aka “Ecke” are spat out simultaneously as Oli Fischer strangles his guitar; it breaks down with added synths before they go again. The words “I got the” become an unlikely mantra. One of the highlights.

4. Monotony. Simply, it’s about the boredoms of familiarity. They, and a sampled old man, say that word 47 times. I counted. The 4/4 snare beat and economic use of chords drive the message home. Monotony.

5. Cosmos Seeker. It starts with two guitar chords that bounce back and forth on the 1st and 3rd beat, gently breaking the… monotony. The lyrics are like a rant aimed at a friend or partner. The female+male doubled vocal allow the words to be interpreted by both sexes – I think this is important.

6. Modern Living. A deep bassline broodily chugs along until the wave of guitars and vocals arrive in unison. “…are you nervous are you anxious are you nervous”. The chorus is pretty euphoric, despite the dark message. It stops completely, kicks off again, and ends with a thrilling guitar sequence.

Sauna Youth

Sauna Youth

7. Leather. As the title may suggest – this is pure punk. 1 minute 41 seconds. The Ramones.

8. Paul. A poem, read by a man (Paul?), over the sound of a throbbing, seemingly discarded guitar. “Abstract notions have no place in pure thought….”

9. Abstract Notions. While we contemplate ‘Paul’, the main point of his poem is thrown in our faces. Something to ponder after a heavy night out… if you can decipher the meaning amongst the fantastic racket.

10: The Bridge. As with a film that’s just been released at the cinema, divulging too much information about this song before you’ve heard it could ruin the impact. Just listen to the lyrics; an interesting concept has been executed superbly, here. I never thought spelling out the word ‘bridge’ one letter at a time could sound so thrilling. Instantly repeatable.

11. Try To Leave. There’s more of a melody, here, and a traditional song structure, along with the narrative of a relationship dilemma. Very catchy.

12. Future Tense. Another bleak topic is explored – it slowly turns the screw, psychologically coercing you into an appropriate state of mind in which to relate to the message.

13. (Taking A) Walk. Another poem, this time, read by a female. The words “Are you counting the bones in my neck?” stand out whenever I hear this. It’s party the way she says it. A lazy beat and beautiful combination of bass and guitar make this a lot more successful than ‘Paul’. This peaceful sounding interlude is most welcome and sits comfortably on this album, due to its slightly sinister nature.

14. Creeping. Thrashing guitar chords and “woo woooo” shatter the peaceful vibe. The last half of this tune is just a glorious noise. “I know a girl she won’t know me”. An angst-ridden finale, capping off an album thats laden with general discontent (from the band).

If you listen to the other related bands, you can spot subtle differences in approach and sound. It’s like a veritable punk buffet. I would say Sauna Youth are the most accessible dish on offer – the chicken chow mein. If you want crispy wonton, you won’t have to look far.

There’s an honesty in the lyrics and musicianship – the parts can be broken down simply  and the titles offer all the information that you need to know of the song’s subject. There’s also a conceptual art feeling about the whole project, as far as the status of band members are concerned. The songs touch on politics and relationships, but offer no solution to the dismal state of affairs that the band find themselves in. Under the intimidating guitars and drums, they’re making us aware that they’re not altogether happy, and something should probably be done about it… if possible… please.

Sonically, this album is very strong indeed; I played it over and over again in the first few weeks of receiving it and then went and saw them live, which cemented my affections. Various forms of loud guitar music are thriving at the moment and these are, for me, the pick of the bunch.

Release Date 08/06/2015 (Upset The Rhythm)

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Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.